Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 February 15
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

Jupiter Unpeeled
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, Cassini Project, NASA

Explanation: Slice Jupiter from pole to pole, peel back its outer layers of clouds, stretch them onto a flat surface ... and for all your trouble you'd end up with something that looks a lot like this. Scrolling right will reveal the full picture, a color mosaic of Jupiter from the Cassini spacecraft. The mosaic is actually a single frame from a fourteen frame movie constructed from image data recorded by Cassini during its leisurely flyby of the solar system's largest planet late last year. The engaging movie approximates Jupiter's cloud motions over 24 jovian rotations. To make it, a series of observations covering Jupiter's complete circumference 60 degrees north and south of the equator were combined in an animated cylindrical projection map of the planet. As in the familiar rectangular-shaped wall maps of the Earth's surface, the relative sizes and shapes of features are correct near the equator but become progressively more distorted approaching the polar regions. In the Cassini movie, which also features guest appearances by moons Io and Europa, the smallest cloud structures visible at the equator are about 600 kilometers across. (Note: Downloading a large gif or quicktime version of the movie may take 15 minutes or longer.)

Tomorrow's picture: Hubble-X

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.